Remember Samantha Jones, of Sex and the City fame? She was the epitome of what PR was thought of for many decades. Glitz, glamor, parties, etc. No longer, says Gideon Fidelzeid, PRWeek editor.
Today, the C-suite is leaning on their comms counsel, both in-house and agency more than they did before the pandemic. The state of perpetual crisis that we are finding ourselves in – the pandemic, the economy, racial inequality – is really showcasing the ability of communicators to react quickly and to help CEO’s navigate these murky waters.
According to Fidelzeid, PR has also been a driver in moving “purpose” to the top of the list of the things companies and executives care about. Purpose has graduated from a nice to-do to a must-have, in every sector, driven by the brands increased ability to listen to what audiences are telling them, particularly Gen-Z audiences, who care deeply about what a brand stands for. Gen-Z makes purchase decisions but also decisions on where they work based on a company’s purpose, and that has prompted a mind shift among many Fortune 500 CEOs.
Brands are acutely aware that they are no longer fully in control of their brand image. In fact, the biggest transition in comms in the last two decades, says Fidelzeid, has been how much companies and their communicators have had to become comfortable with the amount of influence consumers have over how their brands are perceived.
And that extends to diversity, equity and inclusion, a topic near and dear to PRSA Silicon Valley, Fidelzeid and the rest of the PRWeek team. The industry is running behind in diversity and inclusion and there are still far few people of color in the most senior-level positions, but the leaders of the industry are not only very aware of the problem, but are genuinely interested in moving the needle. The business case for diversity is very clear, according to PRWeek: by 2050 we will be a minority-majority country and that needs to be reflected in every industry’s talent pool, including, of course, communications.
PRWeek understands its role in amplifying this message, as well. Be it the leaders who judge its awards programs, those who are recognized on its annual lists (such as the Power List and 40 Under 40), and those who speak at its events, PRWeek is increasingly pushing for diverse representation.
“It is important to have senior leaders of color at the table, these are all role models and proof that the situation can be changed,” said Fidelzeid. He noted the increasing amount of hires of chief diversity officers at larger PR firms, adding that some smaller agencies, though they are tightening their belts due to the pandemic, are also leading on this front, having hired CDOs early on and started out with a diversity and inclusion mindset.
According to Fidelzeid, PRWeek is in an interesting position as an impartial observer of the industry, but also a party profoundly invested in its success. We followed up with him after #FridayForum and asked him for three parting thoughts on the rise of small agencies, inspiring purpose-driven work and a brief analysis of the PR trade magazine ecosystem. His condensed answers, below:
Q: Small consultancies and independent contractors are becoming more and more the PR norm. Is PRWeek considering catering to accommodate these new reader categories in its awards or market coverage?
A: PRWeek has always valued the crucial importance of smaller agencies. In terms of awards, we absolutely shine a light on such shops and we have very specific categories for Boutique and Small Agencies. We proudly note how smaller firms have won in other categories, even when competing directly with the largest agencies. In addition, our BEST PLACES TO WORK program honors more small and midsize firms than it does larger ones.
In terms of market coverage, larger firms are probably a bit better at reaching out to us to make sure we are aware of any news (be it a major hire/promotion or a big campaign or account win). But we more than welcome smaller firms to keep us in the loop on such developments.
What I would certainly suggest to such smaller entities is to reach out to PRWeek with opinion-column ideas and the like. Those not only provide us great content, t. They establish a line of connection between PRWeek and that firm.
Q: What purpose-driven work are you all seeing that inspires you?
I really appreciate this question – and it could not be better timed. Just this week (October 14) we announced our second annual Purpose Awards winners, as part of our annual PRDecoded Conference. The fact we have created an awards program centered on purpose speaks volumes about how important this is.
There are obviously so many terrific programs that are helping tackle the challenges brought on by COVID-19 – every one of those truly inspiring. And then there are those initiatives seeking to truly move the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion – a matter of vital importance not only to the PR industry, but the entire business world.
I welcome everyone to look at the winners and Honorable Mentions from this year’s Purpose Awards. I am sure they will inspire you as much as they do us.
Q: Finally, how do you compare yourself to your competitors? Where do you see PRWeek in the ecosystem of trade pubs?
I truly believe (actually, I know) there is not a more important outlet covering the PR industry than PRWeek. Beyond our excellent news coverage, no trade outlet comes close to PRWeek in terms of offering the deep analysis of all the key issues impacting PR and comms.
I am also extremely proud of our events offerings. The PRWeek Awards are the Oscars of the industry. And the way in which we involve the industry itself to recognize the best work and individuals in PR makes our Awards the most meaningful.
I’d be remiss to not mention how proud I am of how PRWeek has responded to current realities to present industry-leading virtual events. One need look no further than this past week’s PRDecoded event. It has clearly become a staple on the industry calendar. Industry leaders would travel from all over the US to attend it each year. But we pivoted this year to create a terrific three-day virtual event that was well attended and maintained the amazing quality of content PRWeek has always delivered.
To replay the event from our PRSA-SV Facebook page, click here.